(Bloomberg) -- Astral Foods Ltd. reported the first loss in its 23-year history as power outages and the worst outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza increased costs at the South African company.
The nation’s second-largest poultry producer by market value swung to a net loss of 512 million rand ($28 million) in the 12 months through September, compared with a profit of 1.07 billion rand a year earlier.
Astral Foods, which owns brands including Country Fair and Goldi Chicken, said total costs associated with the disease outbreak and the electricity crisis amounted to more than 2 billion rand.
“Astral had to cull broiler breeder parent stock infected by this highly aggressive and contagious strain of the virus, losing over 1 million birds with costs at approximately 400 million rand by the close of the financial year,” Chief Executive Officer Chris Schutte said in an emailed statement. The power cuts also “decimated any plans the group had” of benefiting from an almost 1 billion-rand investment in additional production capacity over the past four years, he said.
The virus, also known as avian flu or bird flu, usually affects wild birds, but can sometimes infect commercial or domestic poultry. While it rarely causes disease in humans, according to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, there’s no treatment for the birds and the government requires farmers to cull poultry to control its spread.
Vaccines exist for the disease, but haven’t been available in South Africa. Astral has been working with industry forums toward vaccination for the current strains of bird flu circulating in the country, Schutte said.
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